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Unite B.V.I. built a reef in the shape of a kraken on an old World War II ship before sinking it off the British Virgin Islands.
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Owen Buggy/Cover Images
In time, the man-made reef will grow into a habitat for fish and other ocean dwellers.
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Owen Buggy/Cover Images
Workers constructed the massive kraken out of metal.
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Owen Buggy Photography
The artificial reef attracts both divers and sea creatures.
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Owen Buggy/Cover Images
Kraken for the Caribbean
Art meets ecology in a new artificial reef

Paul Cates | for Scholastic Art

The Kodiak Queen, a ship with a proud history, recently sank off the British Virgin Islands (BVI) into the Caribbean. This intentional shipwreck will serve as an artificial reef, attracting ocean dwellers and divers alike. The main attraction is the ship’s special passenger: a massive octopus sculpture!

The Kodiak Queen is one of only five ships to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor. When photographer Owen Buggy heard about its history, he wanted to preserve the legacy. Buggy reached out to philanthropist Richard Branson about the derelict vessel. Branson’s nonprofit group Unite B.V.I. partnered with other organizations to complete the gigantic art installation.

Sinking a Sculpture

Artists crafted the giant kraken, another term for an octopus, out of metal mesh. The 80-foot-long monster appears to creep up the back of the ship, as though its attack is what brought the vessel to the ocean floor.

Before sinking it, workers prepared the boat for its new home at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. They drained the ship of all fuels, oils, and other toxic pollutants. In April 2017, the work was complete and the workers sank the soon-to-be coral reef off the coast of the British Virgin Islands.

Submerged Sanctuary

A coral reef acts as a shelter for sea life. It provides a home and protection for a myriad of fish and other creatures of the deep. Natural reefs begin as rocky surfaces that coral attaches to; the coral then attracts other aquatic animals looking for food. Artificial reefs work the same way, except that artists craft them from man-made materials.

Reefs eventually develop their own ecology, which can be quite fragile. Warm seawaters—which are rising in temperature—can destroy entire reef communities. The introduction of new reefs helps to keep our oceans full of life.

The Kodiak Queen is not the first ship that experts have turned into a reef. For more than a hundred years, people have used ships, cars, and even New York City subway cars to build these exquisite habitats.

Divers will have the opportunity to experience the Kraken reef for themselves on chartered excursions. The team at Unite B.V.I. plans to use the proceeds to continue preserving the British Virgin Islands’ ocean water and life.